Trump’s hard line unites opponents in Iran
LONDON — A tough line from President Donald Trump has been met by a show of unity from both sides of Iran’s political divide, uniting hardliners who cast the United States as an implacable enemy with pragmatists who seek rapprochement with the West.
Iran, which has kept up a steady drumbeat of hostile statements for days, lashed out again yesterday, threatening to teach the Americans “new lessons” and keep “all options on the table” if Washington blacklists its Revolutionary Guards.
Trump, who has accused his predecessor Barack Obama of being too soft on Iran, is expected to announce a hardening of policy this week, likely to include “decertifying” a landmark 2015 deal that lifted international sanctions in return for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear programme. Such a step would stop short of pulling out of the agreement, leaving that decision to Congress.
Trump is also expected to designate Iran’s most powerful security force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), as a terrorist organisation.
The IRGC has a vast economic empire in Iran, and blacklisting it could make it more difficult for Iranian businesses to access the global financial system.
“It seems the Trump administration understands only swear words, and needs some shocks to understand the new meaning of power in the world,” Iranian armed forces spokesperson Masoud Jazayeri, who is also a Revolutionary Guards commander, said.
“The Americans have driven the world crazy by their behaviour. It is time to teach them a new lesson.”
Several Iranian newspapers ran the same photo on the front page yesterday: the urbane, U.S.educated Foreign Minister Javad Zarif laughing and hugging the commander of the IRGC, MajorGeneral Mohammad Ali Jafari, in a striking display of unity between the two main factions of Iran’s leadership.
“We have a similar stance but different ways of saying it,” the papers quoted Jafari as saying.
Iran’s moderate president Hasan Rouhani won reelection less than five months ago after a campaign in which he called for better ties with the outside world and reform at home, openly criticising the influence of the IRGC which he accused of backing his hardline opponent. But the moderates and hardliners tend to rally together in public when threatened from abroad.
“The Americans are too small to be able to harm the Revolutionary Guards,” Ali Akbar Velayati, the top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying by ISNA. “We have all options on the table. Whatever they do, we will take reciprocal measures,” he added.
Washington aims to put more pressure on the IRGC, especially over its missile programme. Trump said in September that recent IRGC missile tests illustrated the weakness of the nuclear deal.
Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, said in an article published in the Atlantic on Monday: “No party or country need fear our missiles … unless it intends to attack our territory.”